If you're a candidate for a small, local office, and particularly if you're a first-time candidate, fundraising may be a struggle to start. Frustrating as that may be, it also presents an opportunity - getting volunteers to donate their time to help you out. Using volunteers not only fills a hole for you, it begins to build a group of supporters.
If you and your paid campaign manager sit down to stuff envelopes for a fundraising mailing one night, you've got two votes there. If you get a group of a dozen local volunteers, you've now got a dozen volunteers to finish the mailing in a fraction of the time (while you go out and talk to voters), and you've got a dozen new votes.
The same principle applies to those who self fund their campaigns. If I donate $100,000 of my own money to my campaign, that adds $100,000 and one vote. If I get 10,000 people to each donate $100, I now have $100,000 and 10,000 votes.
Here are a few places to look for volunteers:
- High School Seniors. Many high schools require community service time for graduation. Get in touch with the civics teachers at your local high school and let them know you can help them fill that time.
- College students. Particularly those in political organizations and student government. Most of these students care about elections, so they're not hard to convince. Give them a title for volunteering on a regular basis, and they can add it to their resume.
- Family and friends. They should be your first donors, the people who first encourage you to run and the first people to volunteer.
- Other campaigns. Ask anyone you know who ran recently if you can borrow their volunteer list. Or ask if they can recommend 1-2 rock start volunteers (nearly every campaign has a few of them)
- The local party. These people volunteer their time for political causes already. Just get to them early in the process, because many will be committing to a campaign sooner than later.
- The office. Talk to your co-workers about helping out.
- Your website. Some people are going to hear about your campaign and head to your website to check it out. Be sure to have a form they can fill out to volunteer.
- Associations. If you're part of a civic, community or church group, that's a great place to start. Your friends there like and know you, and are already civically minded.
One final note of caution for volunteers: treat them well. If you're good to them, they'll keep coming back and they'll invite friends. If you're not, it's unlikely they'll return - and they just might help your opponent next time.
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